Donations sought for high-tech dementia tool

Alzheimer’s Australia Vic has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support the development of a forest-themed interactive video game for people with dementia.


A butterfly in the forest in summer

Alzheimer’s Australia Vic has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support the development of a video game for people with dementia that is designed to turn a living room into an interactive forest.

With a game console and smart television, the application aims to provide enjoyment to a person with dementia through sensory features that allow them to engage with the forest, including listening to its sounds and experiencing different climatic conditions.

The campaign is seeking to raise $90,000 to go towards building the tool, which is known as The Forest Project. It is being developed by Opaque Multimedia, the same team behind the simulated training environment at Alzheimer’s Australia Vic’s Perc Walkley Dementia Learning Centre.

Alzheimer’s Australia Vic CEO Maree McCabe said they were constantly looking out for the innovations that would make a difference to the quality of life for people living with dementia.

“Imagine being able to take a person with dementia out of their everyday experience and into a virtual environment through which they will experience awe, wonder, giggles, amazement and joy. Using computer game technology we can do this.” Ms McCabe said.

The forest during a winter snowfall

The virtual environment is being designed specifically for people with dementia from the ground up and will provide a beautiful and calming experience, she said.

Development is already underway with the final product targeted for an early 2015 release. The Forest Project uses the latest video game technology, including Unreal Engine 4 and Microsoft’s Kinect 2.

Users can see and hear the forest in different seasons and weather conditions, such as calm, wind and snow, and use their arms to interact with things in the forest, such as a passing butterfly.

Opaque Multimedia director Norman Wang said they were using the same next generation technology behind some of the most visually impressive video games of recent years. By supporting this initiative, backers will be helping to break new ground in the use of virtual sensory therapy for people with dementia, he said.

“With the community’s support we can greatly increase the fidelity, the types of environment, experiences and will strengthen the emotional connection – ultimately making a difference to the lives of people living with dementia,” Mr Wang said.

Listen to an example of a wind gust you can hear in the forest:


Ms McCabe said they would look at creating other environments in the future such as a beach or a Christmas themed scenario.

“Imagine if we could make this technology available for smart TVs in aged care and private homes across the globe for everybody to enjoy. Together we can make a real difference and bring some fun back into the lives of people living with dementia,” she said.

Alzheimer’s Australia Vic and Opaque Multimedia announced the Pozible crowdfunding campaign at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on Monday afternoon Australian time.

The campaign is running until 16 May 2014. At the time of publication, $1,860 had been pledged. Visit the campaign page here.

See related coverage of the dementia learning centre here.

Tags: alzeheimers-australia-vic, dementia, gaming, maree-mccabe,

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